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Warriors-Nuggets Game 4: Curry, Thompson, and Poole are killing Denver
Bring the brooms!
The Golden State Warriors are one win away from advancing to the second round. If they can close out the Denver Nuggets this afternoon and rest up ahead of meeting whichever team comes out of the Minnesota Timberwolves / Memphis Grizzlies series, that would be best.
But as much as Golden State would love to just shut this one down and call it a win, Denver is going to be fighting hard to avoid the sweep, because the only thing worse than losing in the playoffs is getting swept out of the playoffs in the first round.
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets
WHEN: Sunday, April 24th, 2022 // 12:30pm PDT
Warriors lead series, 3-0
The scale of destruction is staggering: Poole, Curry, and Thompson are scorching hot
With Stephen Curry still hobbling back on a minutes limitation, Jordan Poole has seized the opportunity to realize those long ago dreams that Don Nelson showed us glimpses of. The Warriors’ new 5-man closing unit has lit fires under the imaginations of fans (and the dreams of Nuggets fans) by exploding onto the scene.
Poole is the tip of the spear. He leads the team in scoring, with an average of 28.7 points per game. His shooting numbers are absurd. 86 points on 42 shots. 66.7% from the field, 59% (on 7.3 attempts per game).
Sure, small sample size warning, but the beauty of the playoffs is that all you get are small sample sizes.
I saw this tweet and it started me down a rabbit hole. Did you know that the trio of Curry, Poole, and Thompson are shooting a collective 48.7% from deep… on 78 shot attempts?
It’s no wonder they’re killing Denver. That’s a whole lot of efficient threes! And it all lines up. These are the highest volume shooters on the team right now. Compared to last season’s team that had to bludgeon teams while carrying a large amount of inefficient attempts from guys like Oubre and Bazemore, the Warriors are now cutting with scalpel-like accuracy.
Thompson leads with 10.3 threes per game (he’s now taking around 60% of his shots as three-pointers), followed by Curry (8.3 per game) and Poole (7.3). The next Warrior on the list is Otto Porter — both he and Wiggins shoot around 3 per game. So the nasty net effect of the high volume shot takers, and high efficiency matching up is really at the core of how the Warriors offense is burying the Nuggets so completely.
This isn’t normal. Forget about sustainable or not, just take a look at how far up these leaps in scoring efficiency have taken them. To get this chart below, I took the scoring efficiency (points scored per 100 attempts, or PSA) from Cleaning the Glass, and then compared the regular season values against the playoffs so far.
Look at Poole and Curry on the bottom (Payton too, but he hardly shoots, so the impact is lessened). Poole’s shooting efficiency, or Steph Curry’s alone could be enough to propel a team’s offense. Combined like they have been so far in this series, it’s a miracle that the Nuggets hung in as well as they did in game three.
Klay Thompson’s leap is just as impressive. Both he and Andrew Wiggins have found baskets more easily against the Nuggets in the playoffs than they have all season.
Here’s the same playoff scoring without the clutter of the image above. For comparison, Curry’s regular season mark of 122.7 was in the 99th percentile for point guards; Gary Payton’s rate of 134.9 was in the 100th percentile for combo guards.
I remember when Curry first showed flashes of greatness, there was this mental acceptance between “it’s cool, but he can’t maintain this” to “what if this is his baseline?” This team right now, that five-man unit with these three guards gives me the same vibes.
About Green and Wiggins too though…
The Warriors dynasty wouldn’t be what it has been if it weren’t for the unstable equilibrium that Draymond Green has historically brought. He’s been as good as ever, even as Jokic gets his numbers — it’s not against Green.
There were some critical plays down the final stretch where Green and Wiggins came up huge — in fact, you should definitely watch Eric Apricot’s Explain1Play from Friday.
But it is staggering that even given all of the offensive explosiveness outlined above one of the defining features of game three was that despite Jokic’s 38 points and 15 rebounds, that poke-away steal is going to be the highlight that people remember.
And Wiggins needs a shout out as well. Though his scoring hasn’t seen the leap that the guards have, he’s chipped in in a number of important other ways. It’s a team game out there, and Wiggins and Green shouldn’t be overlooked just because they don’t score a ton of points.
I think the Nuggets are done. That was one heck of an effort that fell short in game three, and I don’t think the Warriors are going to let them up for air again.